As I integrate technology more and more into my classroom, I feel it is my responsibility to not only teach students to use technology, but to teach them to use it wisely.  I’ve used the usual presentations with guidelines, rules, statistics, and facts, but I wanted to create a project where they learned how to be safe in a more hands on way.

Facebook is a very common site used by everyone from my grade 5 students, to my Mom.  I use the site to connect with family and friends who live far away, but I find it a bit static.  After an initial look at the profiles of people I haven’t seen in a while, not much changes.  It is good to create a closed circle to share photos and updates, but most people don’t use the security settings properly to create a safe, closed environment.  Many students don’t see the problem or consequences of posting all sorts of personal details on the internet.  I try to be a good role model in this regard by keeping my online presence very professional, and ed tech oriented.  My Facebook settings are very tight, with only friends seeing photos, updates, and my Facebook profile is available on search engines.  Photos are a big weak spot on the website, if you likeness is tagged in a photo ( if you tagged it or someone else did) your friends, and friends of friends can see it if you do not change the default settings.

To dig into the safety and security settings to show my students a safe way to use Facebook, I created a context for the students.  After reading the novel Holes each of my students was assigned a character.  This novel is good because there are 13 or 14 characters, so with two students to a character there is a lot of variation.  Each student built a profile on Facebook as their character.  This was great to dig into characterization and really understand the novel.  The students had to fill in favorite TV shows, books, music, and activities, as they would apply to the characters.  My kids really got into this, they liked to take on another role and put themselves in another’s shoes.  They had to choose a quot from the novel to use as the favorite quote section of the profile.  I created a closed group that everyone joined and could make posts and  they added each other as friends (unless they were enemies in the book – then they really enjoyed denying their friend requests).

Both before and after working on the website I was able to give a context for discussions on safety, show them why and how to change settings, and talk about pictures posted on websites like Facebook.  For photos for this project, I had the students create clay figures and take digital photos of them to upload to the website.  This really helped the student identify who was in our class when adding friends, especially since they were a few names that returned a few results in a search.  They could just then pick the character with the clay figure as the profile picture.

The best part was using the instant messaging chat.  I was very firm that they had to chat in character, or I wouldn’t let them continue.  They were really able to get the tone and dig into the events of the book as they rehashed them talking to each other.  Some really started to get into the motivation behind the characters as the other students asked them why they did certain things that occurred in the novel.  Often they didn’t even know who they were chatting with in the class, they were just speaking with another character from the book.  The more we reflected on out time online and talked as a class, the more I realized how much they really got out of the three short hours they spent on the website.